Perhaps the most retro thing about “Stranger Things” was the way people found it — via word of mouth.
The country was not inundated with ads and marketing stunts; instead, viewers heard about the show from friends and sank into its immersive world of nerdy kids, nervous parents and evocative mysteries. It was hard not to fall in love with the Netflix drama’s affection for genre storytelling and with its earnest homages to the gnarliest pop culture of a few decades ago.
A runaway phenomenon was born: This time last year, you couldn’t walk into a Halloween party without encountering at least 11 Elevens. How could a second season top the media cacophony around it? Not easily, at least at first.
Until “Stranger Things 2” really gets going — and that takes a while — it trails an air of self-consciousness that veers into strained fan service at times. The good news is, the show’s core cast remains an extremely versatile and effective ensemble, and once the story kicks into a higher gear about halfway through the nine-episode season, a lot of the old magic returns.